How to Pick a Hotel on Oahu

Do you dream about sunbathing on the white sands of Waikiki, exploring a tropical reef with a snorkel and mask just off the lava-rock coastline or enjoying a cocktail in the Hawaiian sunset? You’re not alone.

Going to Hawaii on vacation is a dream come true for many people, and the 50th state’s beauty is not exaggerated.

Tourism is a multi-billion-dollar industry in the Aloha State, and it’s easy to see why. Hawaii has plenty of hotels, resorts and other man-made attractions in addition to the naturally compelling vistas and seascapes. You can’t go wrong with the natural beauty of the islands, but when you’re planning a trip to Hawaii you will need to carefully consider what hotel or resort will serve your needs best.

Where on Oahu?

The first thing you should consider when planning your Hawaiian vacation to Oahu is which part of the island you’d like to stay on. Honolulu appeals to many because of the sheer number of things to do here — from sporty to cultural and romantic to adventurous — but it’s not the only place to stay on the island. Many travelers prefer a smaller, less populous base for their Hawaiian trip and thus choose a hotel on the North Shore of Oahu, or at Kailua, which is famous for its wind- and kite-surfing opportunities.

If you love the bright lights-big city feel of Honolulu, it’s understandable! “The Big Pineapple” is a wonderful place to visit in its own right — even if you never leave the city limits. Honolulu is most famous for the numerous, fabulous, hotels and resorts that line Waikiki Beach. The beach is the place around which most tourists gravitate — whether for swimming, surfing or simply strolling. If it appeals to you, the rooms with sea views and glimpses of the sand and Diamond Head at the resorts along Waikiki are understandably popular. Rooms are usually spacious, and the resorts’ added features such as cocktail happy hours, kiddie pools and room service make for a great vacation in paradise.

However, staying along Waikiki might not be the best answer for you if you are planning on renting a car and making daytrips to see the rest of what Oahu has to offer. As in any city’s most popular areas, the streets near Waikiki are often crowded and finding parking may be onerous. To make sure that your rental will have plenty of room to manoeuver, look for smaller properties off the beach.

Does It Have Entertainment?

Picking Hotel OahuIf you’re staying in Honolulu, you’ll never lack for entertainment. The Hawaiian capital has plenty of daily cultural performances, as well as museums and galleries to explore. However, this is another metric by which to measure your hotels. If you know that you’ll be looking for a hula performance or musical review every night, you can find a hotel that offers the best kind of entertainment for you.

Does It Suit Your Group?

Although Hawaii is a popular honeymoon destination, newlyweds are far from the only kind of tourists who stop on Oahu. Whether you are a solo traveler, a family with children, seniors on a group holiday or some other category, you can find a hotel that suits your needs. If you’re bringing small children, for example, you’ll want rooms with pullout beds and a kid-friendly menu at breakfast. You may even find a hotel with a babysitting service. For seniors, it might be important to have ground-floor rooms or other accommodation that allows access with limited mobility. For all groups, it helps if the hotel caters to your particular kind of traveler and offers tours and other extras for your interests.

Does It Have a Swimming Pool?

Everyone knows Waikiki Beach is the hot spot in Honolulu, but the truth is some people prefer to swim in fresh water than in salt water. If you love swimming, but not the sea, do yourself a favor and book a hotel that has a swimming pool. Many of the hotels offer these — and some of the larger resorts have fancy options, such as infinity pools, pool bars and kiddie pools with slides — but not all, so be sure to check.

Finding a hotel in Hawaii can be a challenge because of the sheer variety and number of accommodations available. If you know what services and options you need from the hotel, it will be easier to choose.

Teeth, Feathers and Sea Cows: A Look at the Fascinating Wildlife on Sanibel Island

According to USA Today, Sanibel Island is one of the best Florida beach towns for escaping the winter cold. A serenity- and peace-seeking tourist’s dream, Sanibel is home to beautiful white beaches that lead gently into warm Gulf water. The entire island is easily accessible by bike and foot — there isn’t a single traffic light — which makes it a perfect place to appreciate its wild creatures in between regular bouts of shell collecting and beach reading.

Whether you hope to take advantage of one of Sanibel Island’s fabulous resorts or are just out on a day trip, Sanibel Island’s wild things are worth a quiet walk and a silenced phone. From alligators to manatees, you won’t want to miss a thing.

Pelicans

Pelicans are large diving birds that feed on fish and other marine life. They are friendly birds, living in flocks of both sexes all year long. Incredibly buoyant, their skin and bones have internal air sacks. When looking for food, pelicans might fly a few feet above the water until they spy a school of fish, at which point, they dive into the water — often at very high speeds — becoming completely submerged as they consume their prey. Some pelicans have a more inactive feeding style and simply scoop up fish while they swim. When they live around people, they may also resort to foraging behaviors.

Pelicans are known for their unique mouths. The lower half of a pelican’s bill is really just a frame around a pouch that can expand to fit in more fish. Believe it or not, a pelican’s bill can hold up to three times more than its stomach can. When a pelican catches more fish than it can eat, it stores the excess in its esophagus.

Anhingas

Also called the Snakebird, the Anhinga is a large water bird that often swims with only its neck poking out of the water so that it looks like a water snake. A darter, it hunts by spearing fish and other prey with its thin, sharp beak. It is not able to waterproof its feathers, which means its feathers can become so waterlogged that the bird is barely able to stay afloat. This feature makes it especially well-suited to diving and seeking underwater prey, and it is able to stay submerged for long periods of time and travel great underwater distances.

Marsh Rabbit

The marsh rabbit is a small, short-eared and short-legged cottontail rabbit that lives in the coastal and southern United States. It’s a strong swimmer and is found only in regions that are close to water. Catching a glimpse of one of these little guys while they’re swimming is a special treat.

Alligators

Alligators live on Sanibel, and they do get out and about. To avoid them, stay away from grassy areas close to water. Of course, if you want to spy an alligator, that’s right where you should go — but be careful, alligators can reach 11 feet in length, and they are predatory animals. Never approach an alligator or feed it. If you happen to spot one in a residential area, report it to the city.

Manatees

The manatee is a large, solitary plant-eating mammal that is fully aquatic and can reach up to 13 feet and 1,300 pounds. Also known as the sea cow, the manatee’s closest living relatives are elephants and hyraxes, making their sea-loving ways seem all the more strange. They sleep half of each day in the water and come up to the surface for air in 20-minute intervals. The rest of their time is spent grazing in water around ten feet deep. They are slow-moving and curious, sometimes coming close to inspect human-powered watercraft like kayaks. Other fun oddities about the manatee:

  • Their eyelids close in a circular motion.
  • Their teeth are continually replaced their entire lives, with new teeth growing in the back of their mouths and moving to the front as older teeth fall out — the kangaroo and elephant are the only other mammals whose teeth do this.
  • Their intestines measure around 45 feet, which is incredibly long for an animal their size.

Sanibel Island has much to offer the wildlife-loving visitor. Rent a bike or hoof it by foot; however you choose to get about, keep your eyes peeled for predators, snakebirds and swimming rabbits, because this Florida vacationland is full of them.

Image by D. Gordon E. Robertson from Wikimedia Commons

 About the Author: Jeremy Birks is a retired zoologist and avid birdwatcher who calls Southern Florida home.

Hotel Safety Tips for Travelers

Going on vacation somewhere, especially when you’re visiting the place for the first time, is seen as the perfect opportunity to “let loose”, set aside your worries, and simply enjoy yourself. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should take hotel security for granted. A number of trips have been ruined once travelers go back to their hotels only to find it ransacked, looted, and their things stolen. This could happen to anyone – frequent business travelers included.

Just because you’re staying in a 5-star hotel does not mean you’re completely safe. Here are some things to remember regarding your safety and security while staying in a hotel.

Hotel Safety Checklist

  1. Preparedness is key. When booking your hotel accommodations prior to your trip, look up reviews and testimonials of the hotel, inn, or bed-and-breakfast you’ll be staying at. Assess how safe the location is – particularly with respect to fire hazards, break-ins, and other crimes
  2. Rooms in the upper floors are harder to break into, so book a room that’s not located on the ground floor or the second floor
  3. Most hotels provide lockers or safety vaults for their guests. Place your valuables (passport, travel documents, gadgets) in these safes when leaving your hotel for the day
  4. Confidentiality and privacy are your rights as a hotel guest. Front desk clerks are not supposed to announce your room number (and room phone number) for everyone to hear. Ask for a different room if that’s the case
  5. Check the locks of the windows and the doors of your room. If you find them to be faulty, or some windows are stuck, ask to be transferred to another room
  6. Make sure you know where the fire exits on your floors are located. The hotel should also provide you with a list of emergency phone numbers you could call. Program them into your phone or bring a copy of the list with you everywhere you go
  7. Being friendly with locals and other tourists is not a bad thing, but you should still practice caution, especially if you’re all women in a new place. Do not allow other people inside your rooms, not even if you’ve known them for more than a couple of days. While befriending people you should also be knowing the culture and ethnic practices of people in your travel destination so as to avoid any racism related issues
  8. The most important security tip is to maintain a high level of vigilance. Double-check that the doors and windows are locked when you’re leaving the hotel for a day of exploring the town, and when you go to sleep. When someone knocks on the door, do not immediately open it, not even if they announce that they’re Housekeeping or Room Service (especially if you didn’t order anything). Peepholes are there for a reason

You never really know for sure what could go wrong on your trip, so make sure you do all you can to be prepared for any eventuality. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry

Search Terms: safe hotel, hotel safety tips, hotel fire safety, hotel room safe, hotel safety and security, hotel safety checklist

Best Hobbies for Couples

All work and no play make anyone dull. That’s why we always turn to our hobbies when work becomes too demanding, stressful or, well, boring. For many people, hobbies are a form of sanity check, something to shake up the monotony of their daily grind. But you know what would make your hobby more enjoyable? It’s nothing but sharing your passion with someone special.

Here are some hobbies that you and your partner or significant other can enjoy together.

  1. Running/Walking: Whether it’s a regular early morning jog, a stroll around the park, or joining fun runs and marathons, walking, running or jogging together is a good way to improve on how you sync. Plus, it’s also a wonderful form of exercise, so you’d both be hitting two birds with one stone! Others prefer to spend time together in the gym, but nothing beats sharing each other’s company outdoors
  2. Going to the movies: Curling up at home watching DVDs is a good way to be closer, but remember when you were still in the early stages of dating and you’d catch a movie at the cinema, complete with popcorn and soda? This is one way to recapture those moments by still going to the movies at least once a month
  3. Go dancing: Taking up dancing as a hobby with your special someone has a lot of merits. It will definitely bring you much closer together and also heat things up a bit. How you move on the dance floor together, whether in a stirring tango, passionate salsa, or wild-abandon hip-swinging at a pub, will say a lot about your relationship
  4. Traveling: Gaining new experiences, meeting new people, and exploring new places together, is one sure way to bring couples together. Perhaps it’s the thrill of the unknown, or simply the knowledge that they are experiencing everything for the first time in the company of someone they care about. Whatever it is, traveling together – whether locally or outside the country – is an adventure worth taking
  5. Board/Card Games: Let’s face it: some couples simply want to stay indoors instead of being with a crowd of people. Bring out that chessboard or your favorite deck of cards, or maybe even start a game of Scrabble, and challenge each other. Or you could go old-school and solve the daily crossword puzzle together. Who said being competitive isn’t good for a healthy relationship?

There’s no denying that relationships become much stronger when compatibility is factored in. Having similar interests and shared passions, and doing them together, is a sure-fire way to make sure the flames are kept alive.

Search terms: hobby for couples, hobbies for couples

The Importance of Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is often perceived as an ‘additional cost burden’ by most travelers. Interestingly, even travel agents tend to downplay the role of travel insurance – due to the fear of the increased package pricing and hence losing customer base – wherever it is not mandatory.
Whether you are a domestic traveler or international flyer, the travel insurance offers the following benefits and major coverage (actual benefits may vary based on your chosen package)

  • Health (dental/medical) coverage during your travel and at your destination
  • Accident related coverage is must for any type of travel
  • Loss of baggage cover and theft related coverage
  • Legal support cover during your stay abroad
  • Emergency evacuation and delayed departure cover
  • Death related and funeral expense cover
  • Natural calamities (earth quakes, flood, volcanic) related damage cover

In addition, there may be optional coverage benefits such as car rental, war and terrorism related coverage, adventure sports coverage based on what you opt for.

With airline and hospitality industry fighting margin pressures and economic slowdown related issues, the need for traveling related insurance coverage gets all the more important. Flight cancellations and reservation issues are becoming a daily affair these days, isn’t it?

Travel Insurance Tips

Just like any other insurance coverage, the travel insurance too comes with a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ and hence it’s very important to pick the right plan.

Firstly you need to consider a travel insurance plan based on your trip frequency. For example, if you are frequent traveler to a particular country you have to opt for multi trip insurance plan rather than a single entry plan. Similarly if you are more of a domestic traveler, then you need domestic travel insurance.

Next, it is important to make sure that you have the right medical coverage as part of your plan because your domestic medical coverage just does not work in a foreign country.

Once the medical part is taken care of you need to worry about the purpose and duration of your visit. If you are going on a long vacation that involves a lot of traveling from country to country (e.g. a Europe vacation for a month) you need to make sure that your coverage is valid with respect to the prevailing situation and rules of all those countries.

If your purpose is to be part of any extreme sports, then you need to opt for such special coverage and pick the insurance company that offers the same as an option.

If you are visiting a country affected by terror or war situations or wherever travel advisory has been issued, then it is important get that option covered as well.

It is also important to cover for very expensive cruises and luxury vacations. Obviously, you don’t want to lose money on additional expenses such as hotel stay, travel to main port etc without having travel insurance while going on a life time cruise that costs $20,000 – Just in case of a cancellation for example.

Essentially, you must get coverage for most important scenarios such as health, flight cancellation, baggage loss etc and on top opt for coverage for those prevailing conditions. A good travel agent can always help you with the situational requirements while a good insurance adviser would help finding the right plan.

I hope the importance of travel insurance is very clear now!

Flying with an Infant – Tips and Checklist

Air travel with infants is a nightmare for most parents and it is one of those occasions where you badly want to pretend ‘that’s not my baby’ especially when the kids are unruly!

Though I cannot guarantee that flying with a baby will be a smooth experience for you, the following tips can definitely help you avoid a lot of related air travel miseries.

Before the travel

When you plan to travel with a baby, you have to keep the following things in mind.

  1. Get your travel checklist ready: Before the travel, you need to prepare a list of things that you want to carry during the flight with a baby. This might include mainly the baby supplies, diapers, baby wipes, medicines, baby formula – supplements, flask, boiled water, sterilized bottles, clothes, warmers, pacifiers, baby bag, pram, travel seats etc. If it is a long international travel, make sure that you know the weight limits and baby travel rules as per the airline websites
  2. Suitable flight timing: Try to choose an airline time that overlaps with baby’s sleep time so that less of feeding troubles you have during the flight. Also, as much as possible book a direct ticket
  3. Book a seat for the baby: Though babies below two years do not need a ticket, it is advisable to book a seat for the baby especially if the travel time is more than two hours or so. This can be expensive but really help you managing the baby with the right airline travel seat for your baby. This will definitely help you sleep properly as well. Please note that even if you do not book a seat for the baby, you need to get a ticket for it
  4. Travel accessories: The right travel accessories such as baby flight safety seat, pram, baby carrier etc should be carried along based on the duration of the flight as well as baby’s age
  5. Travel with a helper: Flight checking in process, X-ray screening, pushing the luggage etc while carrying the baby can be really difficult for you if you travel alone. As much as possible try to travel with your spouse or travel partner. If you cannot get one, try to take help from the airline ground staff
  6. Go lighter on luggage: It is very important that you pack light when you travel with a baby because your baby itself can be as good as a couple of suitcases. Also, it is important to keep all of baby’s essential stuff in one carry bag
  7. For breast-fed babies: If you are still breastfeeding your baby, you should wear the right kind of clothes that help you feed the baby during travel

During the travel and flight

  1. Be on time and wait: Try to arrive at the airport a bit in advance so that you can avoid the rush near security check and X-ray screening. Also, this gives time for you to prepare for the flight by waiting in the nearest possible seats near the gate. Please note that you may have to declare the baby formula, food items at the customs so as to avoid any security check issues later
  2. Feed the baby and change diapers: You may want to change your baby’s diapers and feed it once before you enter the flight. You may keep a bit of the bottle content left as it will be helpful during take off
  3. Know the flight’s baby features: Passengers travelling with kids will be usually boarded first and hence it gives you the opportunity to setup your baby seat properly. Also, take this opportunity to visit the lavatory and understand how baby diaper changing platform works and how to dispose the mess. If needed, take help from the stewards
  4. Choose the right seat: Never choose an isle seat for the baby and his travel seat. Usually any falling objects, passengers hurrying to the lavatory or sewards serving food can hurt your baby. A window seat may be suitable in most cases
  5. Talk to the stewardess for help: As soon as you enter, you may talk to the air hostess to understand if there are any special rules or safety measures to be taken for infants
  6. During take off: Due to the sudden changes in cabin pressure, baby’s ears can ache during take off. To reduce this, you may use a pacifier or feed the baby with the bottle. Same is applicable during landing as well
  7. On arrival: On arrival, take your time to collect the luggage and your baby along with your accessories. It’s better to wait till other passengers leave the flight as people are usually in a hurry to leave the flight as soon as the doors are open

Happy journey with your little one!